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Commercial crab season starts, vessels remain docked as fishermen dispute crab price
NORTH COAST- The start to the commercial crab season opened Sunday, but a price dispute has crab fisherman still on shore and their vessels docked.
"The fisherman are asking $3.00 a pound and the processors are offering $2.50 a pound," said Aaron Newman, President of the Humboldt Fisherman’s Marketing Association.
It is a fifty-cent difference in price, but a difference that fisherman say can either make or break their entire year,
"Crab fishing is about 70 percent of year," said longtime fisherman Patrick Davis.
Patrick Davis said he has been fishing Dungeness crab for twenty years, and said with the increase costs in fuel, bait, and labor, he spends on average around $3,000 per day,
"Everything is getting more expensive all of the time, I know it is for the processors too but I think they have a bigger margin to work on then we do."
The extra fifty-cents could mean the difference between thousands of dollars per day. For example, Davis said an average catch for one day is around 10,000 pounds of crab, which means a $5,000 difference in price if fishermen settle on the $2.50 offer compared to $3.00. And if the negotiations last any longer, it could drastically affect the holiday sales.
"If we do not get going by Dec. 15 it really hurts the Christmas market."
Crabbers say the first ten days are when their daily catch is at its highest, and if they settle on a two dollar and fifty cent price tag, the price will likely decrease as the catch becomes sparse,
"We catch our crabs very fast, and we would be selling the vast majority of our catch for the lower price and we just don't want to do that."
Fisherman say pre-season tests show that the crab season is anticipated to be a short one- due to a low volume of Dungeness crab and they are eager to begin setting their gear and heading out on the water,
"It is our livelihood, right now the crab are ready to go, they are in good shape."